Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus we have one trade of note and a game recap from 1999.
On this date in 1998, the Pirates traded pitcher Esteban Loaiza to the Texas Rangers in exchange for pitcher Todd Van Poppel and second baseman Warren Morris. Van Poppel was once considered a future ace before he pitched a pro game. He was a high school star who the Oakland A’s took in the first round of the 1990 draft, and at the age of 19 he made his Major League debut. He never panned out though, as by the time of this deal at age 26, he was with his third team already. For the 1998 Rangers, he had made four starts before this deal and he was 1-2 with an 8.84 ERA. Morris was in his second year of pro ball, hitting .331 with 14 homers and 73 RBIs in 95 games at Double-A. Loaiza was also a 26-year-old pitcher, though he had much more success in the majors than Van Poppel. Loaiza had a 27-28, 4.63 record in 96 games (87 as a starter) for the Pirates. He was 6-5, 4.52 at the time of the deal.
After the trade, Morris finished the season in Double-A, hitting for the exact same average for the Pirates affiliate (.331) as he had when he came over. In 1999, he finished third in the National League Rookie of the Year voting, hitting .288 with 15 homers and 73 RBIs. His numbers dropped off during his sophomore year, then fell even more in 2001, and he was sent to Triple-A for half the season. The Pirates released him during the following Spring Training. Van Poppel went 1-2, 5.36 in seven starts and 11 relief appearances for the 1998 Pirates. They resigned him for 1999, though he spent the entire year in Triple-A. He pitched in the majors until 2004, and for a short time he found success as a reliever with the 2000-01 Chicago Cubs. Loaiza ended up pitching in the majors until 2008, winning another 99 games, including 21 for the 2003 Chicago White Sox, when he finished second in the AL Cy Young voting. He was a two-time All-Star, making the game in 2003 and 2004. For the Rangers, he went 17-17, 5.19 before they traded him to the Toronto Blue Jays in July of 2000.
Brian Rogers, pitcher for the 2006-2007 Pirates. He was an 11th round draft pick in 2003 of the Detroit Tigers out of Georgia Southern University. He debuted as a starter in the short-season New York-Penn League, making 12 starts in 2003, with a 3.34 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 56.2 innings. In 2004, he spent the entire year as a starter in Low-A with West Michigan of the Midwest League, going 6-8, 4.55 in 142.1 innings over 25 starts, with 120 strikeouts. In 2005, Rogers moved to relief in High-A, playing with Lakeland in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. He went 4-1, 2.06 in 65.2 innings over 52 games, with 65 strikeouts. He began the 2006 season in Double-A, pitching for Erie of the Eastern League, where he had a 2.39 ERA in 64 innings over 37 games, with 69 strikeouts. He came to the Pirates at the 2006 trading deadline in exchange for Sean Casey. He pitched just twice in Double-A Altoona of the Eastern League for the Pirates and seven times in Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League, before joining the Major League roster. He made his big league debut on September 1, 2006, pitching a scoreless inning. He would pitch ten times for Pittsburgh, posting an 8.31 ERA in 8.2 innings with seven strikeouts.
Rogers went to the Arizona Fall League after the 2006 season and made six scoreless appearances, throwing a total of 7.2 innings. He began the next season in Indianapolis, before getting called up in mid-May. He made three appearances for the Pirates, facing nine batters over two innings of work, allowing three runs to score. He was returned to Triple-A, where he finished the season with a 2-1, 3.05 record in 48 appearances, with two saves and 65 strikeouts in 65 innings. The Pirates dropped him from the 40-man roster after the season, then re-signed him to a minor league deal. He split his 2008 season between Altoona and Indianapolis, before being released in June, despite outstanding results. He allowed three earned runs in 29.1 innings that season while in the Pirates system. He went on to pitch 16 games for the Tigers in Triple-A, posting a 7.65 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 20 innings for Toledo of the International League. Rogers also made four scoreless appearances with Double-A Binghamton of the Eastern League (with the New York Mets) that year before retiring from baseball. His big league career was limited to a 9.28 ERA in 10.2 innings over 13 appearances, all with the Pirates.
Jerry Lynch, outfielder for the 1954-56 and 1963-66 Pirates. He played one season of minor league ball before spending two years away from the game serving in the military. In 1950 at 19 years old, he hit .329 with 28 doubles, 14 triples and ten homers in 125 games for Greenville of the Class-C Cotton States League. When he returned to baseball in 1953, he was a member of the Yankees organization, spending the year playing for Norfolk of the Piedmont League (Class-B), where he hit .333 in 132 games, with 97 runs, 33 doubles, 22 triples, 21 homers, 133 RBIs, 77 walks and a .986 OPS. The Pirates picked him up in the 1953 Rule 5 draft and he played 98 games as a rookie in 1954, splitting his time between the corner outfield spots. He batted .239 with 27 runs, eight homers, 36 RBIs and a .663 OPS. Lynch had a similar role the next season, although the Pirates experimented with switching him to catcher at the end of the year. During his first day as a big league catcher, he caught all 18 innings of a doubleheader. It was an idea that was scrapped before Spring Training start in 1956, and he ended up playing a total of 21 innings behind the plate in his 13-year career. During that 1955 season, he hit .284 with 43 runs, 29 extra-base hits and a .774 OPS in 88 games. He would end up playing just 19 games in 1956, with all but one as a pinch-hitter, as he missed most of the season with phlebitis. He went 3-for-19 with a triple and a walk that season. The Pirates acquired Lynch in the Rule 5 draft, then lost him the same way to the Cincinnati Reds in December of 1956.
Lynch was a seldom-used backup during his first season in Cincinnati, hitting .258 with 11 runs, four homers, 13 RBIs and a .693 OPS in 67 games. He made 20 starts all year, all of them in right field. In 1958, he got a chance to play regularly in right field and he responded by batting .312 with 16 homers and an .835 OPS, while setting career highs with 20 doubles, 68 RBIs, 58 runs scored and 122 games played. In 1959, he batted .269 in 117 games, setting a career high with 17 homers, while finishing with 49 runs, 16 doubles, 58 RBIs and a .782 OPS. His playing time dropped over the next two years, despite putting up excellent results. Lynch batted .289 with 23 runs, eight doubles, six homers and 27 RBIs in 1960, going to the plate 178 times in 102 games played. He finished with an .834 OPS. In 1961, he batted 210 times over 96 games, hitting .315 with 33 runs, 13 doubles, 13 homers, 50 RBIs and a 1.031 OPS. He had a .404 average and a 1.376 OPS in 59 pinch-hitting opportunities that year, which led to him getting mild MVP support (22nd place finish) as a bench player.
Lynch saw more playing time in 1962 and responded by hitting .281 with 41 runs, 15 doubles, 12 homers, 57 RBIs and an .822 OPS in 114 games. The Pirates traded outfielder Bob Skinner to the Reds to reacquire Lynch on May 23, 1963. Lynch played 640 games with the Reds, hitting .289 with 220 runs, 79 doubles, 70 homers and 282 RBIs. He was hitting .250/.294/.531 in 22 games at the time of the trade. The lefty-hitting Lynch saw limited time over his last four seasons with the Pirates, getting 161 starts, with all but three of them coming as a left fielder. For the 1963 Pirates, he hit .266 with 26 runs, ten homers, 36 RBIs and a .771 OPS in 88 games. In 1964, he hit .273 with 35 runs, 14 doubles, 16 homers, 66 RBIs and an .823 OPS in 114 games. Lynch moved to a full-time bench role in 1965, batting 131 times all season in 73 games played. He still hit well, with a .281 average, five homers (out of six extra-base hits), 16 RBIs and a .741 OPS. In his final season, he batted 60 times in 64 games, and put up a .552 OPS. He played just 16 innings in the outfield that year. He finished his time with the Pirates as a .263 hitter in 544 games, hitting 44 doubles and 45 homers, with 188 RBIs and 144 runs scored. In his 13-year career, he hit .277 with 364 runs, 123 doubles, 115 homers and 470 RBIs in 1,184 games. He was a .263 hitter with 18 homers and 90 RBIs in 491 pinch-hitting opportunities. Lynch hit 17 triples with both the Pirates and the Reds.
Chummy Gray, pitcher for the 1899 Pirates. He began his pro career in the minors in 1893, with his only Major League experience coming six years later during a September trial with the 1899 Pirates. Prior to joining Pittsburgh, Gray had pitched the previous four seasons for the Buffalo Bisons of the Eastern League, winning a combined 47 games during the 1897-98 seasons. He debuted in pro ball right around his 19th birthday in 1893, playing in the New England League for a team that moved twice during the season (Lowell/Manchester/Boston). Gray went 5-7, 3.17 in 105 innings. He remained in the New England League in 1894 (classified that year as Class-B) for a team from Bangor. There are no stats are available from that season, but it was said that he established himself as one of the best pitchers in the league that year. He moved up to A-Ball in 1895, playing for Toronto of the Eastern League, where he had a 15-27, 3.00 record in 354.1 innings, completing 36 of his 40 starts. The 1896 season was split between Columbus of the Class-A Western League and Buffalo. No complete stats are available from that year, but his 1897 stats with Buffalo show that he went 23-13, 1.84 in 328 innings, completing 35 of 37 starts. Going into that season, it was said that the Baltimore Orioles held first rights to him and it was expected that he would enter the National League soon, but nothing came from that deal, despite his strong record that season. In 1898, he had a 24-11 record in 331 innings, with 38 complete games in 39 starts. His ERA isn’t available from that year, but he allowed fewer runs per nine innings in 1898 than he did in 1897. Buffalo moved to the Western League in 1899 and the Pirates bought two of their players. Pop Dillon debuted for the Pirates on September 8th, one day before Gray was also sold to Pittsburgh.
The circumstances that led to Gray’s signing and use by the Pirates would be considered odd under today’s standards. The Pirates had a pitcher named Tully Sparks, who was only signed through September 15th. At that date he was free to leave for home to attend to his cotton business. Chummy (real name was George) was purchased for $1,000 from Buffalo and took Sparks’ spot in the rotation. His first big league appearance was on September 14th, pitching in relief of Sam Leever, who had loaded the bases before he was pulled. Gray allowed all three runs to score, walking one batter and throwing a wild pitch to score the other two. He finished the game off with four scoreless innings, but the Pirates still lost by two runs. Chummy started four days later and won his first game 7-5 over the Boston Beaneaters. He then started six of the next 18 games, with the Pirates winning three of his starts. He went 3-3, 3.34 in 70.2 innings for the Pirates. He was kept around until the huge deal between the Louisville Colonels and Pirates took place, which infused a ton of talent to the Pittsburgh roster, including Hall of Famers Honus Wagner, Fred Clarke and Rube Waddell. Gray was originally sold to Kansas City of the American League (the year before it became a Major League) for $500, but he refused to play for them and he was then sold back to Buffalo once the prior deal was called off. In a twist, Gray was sold to Kansas City weeks later. He would return to Buffalo in 1901, while also seeing time with Hartford of the Eastern League that season. He spent all of 1902 in Buffalo and all of 1903 with Providence of the Eastern League. Gray has no pro stats for 1904, but he could be found pitching for Utica and Scranton of the Class-B New York State League. He returned to Scranton at 31 years old in 1905 to play 29 games. That was his last season in pro ball. He was set to play with Scranton in 1906, but instead he took over a billiards hall in Maine.
Jim Handiboe, pitcher for the 1886 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. His pro baseball career began as a Major Leaguer at the age of 19 with the 1886 Alleghenys, and 11 years later it ended without him playing for another Major League team. His signing announcement came on November 1, 1885 and it was said that he played for a team called Henley from Richmond, Indiana, where he pitched four no-hitters. It was also said that his contract called for a salary of $150 per month. Pittsburgh had two strong pitchers for 1886, Pud Galvin and Ed Morris, back during an era when teams rarely used more than two starters, especially when the guys were as good as Galvin and Morris. Those two started 113 of the team’s 140 games that year, while Handiboe finished third on the team with 14 starts. He started his first game on May 28th, a 4-1 loss to Matt Kilroy, who is the holder of the all-time single season strikeout record. Handiboe’s next start was 11 days later, and it was another loss. He then went another ten-day stretch without an appearance before he started three games in a row over a five-day span (June 19-23). Ed Morris was out for a short time and Galvin had started all three of the previous games. Handiboe went 2-1 in those games, throwing a 3-0 shutout in the last game against the St Louis Brown Stockings. After a start by Galvin, Handiboe went for the fourth time in a five-game stretch and got hit hard, losing 19-5 to the Louisville Colonels. From then on, he started eight games over the final three months of the year, with his last Major League game coming on September 8th, a 6-2 loss to St Louis in the second game of a doubleheader. Pittsburgh went with Galvin or Morris in 24 of the last 26 games, with new rookie pitcher Bill Bishop getting the other two starts. Handiboe finished 7-7, 3.32, completing 12 of his 14 starts.
Handiboe had an $1,800 salary with the Alleghenys for 1887 and he was with the club on Opening Day on April 30th, but he didn’t pitch before he was sold to Eau Claire of the Northwestern League on May 13th. A large majority of his minor league stats are missing, but his last known team is Columbus of the Western League in 1897. Handiboe had a 5-15 record for Eau Claire, while also pitching (and losing) one game for Zanesville of the Ohio State League. He played for Columbus of the Tri-State League in 1888, then Easton and Hartford of the Atlantic Association in 1889. He went back to the Tri-State League in 1890 with Canton, followed by Bay City of the Northwestern League in 1891. Over the next six years, he only has even numbered seasons in pro ball available online. He played for Altoona of the Pennsylvania State League in 1893, where he went 9-7, 3.33 in 146 innings, while batting .330 in 28 games. He played for Columbus of the Interstate League in 1895 and Columbus of the Western League in 1897, though it appears that was just one early season game in which he allowed ten runs and went hitless at the plate. I was able to find him playing for Omaha of the Western League in 1892 until mid-July. He was playing semi-pro ball in Ohio in the summer of 1894, and he was in semi-pro ball near Washington DC in 1896, pitching and playing in the field. He also played for the Taunton Herrings of the New England League until mid-May in 1897 (before and after his one game for Columbus), then joined a team from Augusta, Maine in the short-lived Maine State League for the rest of the season. It appears that he also had a very brief stay with Williamsport of the Central Pennsylvania League in June of 1898.
The Game Recap
On this date in 1999, the Pittsburgh Pirates took on the Cleveland Indians at Three Rivers Stadium. The Pirates were trying to get to the .500 mark against a strong Cleveland team. It was a back and forth battle that ended with a 13-10 win for the Pirates and a big day for Kevin Young, who homered twice and drove in five runs. Here are full details of that game in one of our Game Rewind features.